Dangers of Overemphasizing Women’s Submission (Miller)

Last year I read Rachel Miller’s helpful book “Beyond Authority and Submission.” A friend of mine who appreciated it mentioned it to me yesterday and that made me remember a blog post I did on it awhile back. This topic is near and dear to my heart because I know Christian women who have suffered abuse in the name of submission. Here’s last year’s post on this that is still for sure relevant:

The Bible teaches that in a marriage relationship the wife needs to submit to her own husband (e.g. Eph. 5:24).  However, the Bible says so many other things about wives and women.  If we focus too much on the call to submit and nearly ignore the other biblical teaching on wives and women, it often leads to problems – sometimes major and evil problems.  These problems aren’t just found in cults; sometimes they’re found in Christian circles.  I really appreciate how Rachel Green Miller stated it in her new book, Beyond Authority and Submission: 

The hyper focus on authority and submission can create an environment that is emotionally, spiritually, and physically abusive for women and children – especially when a man’s authority over his wife and children is almost absolute.  In this system, men are the authority that’s been put into place by God over families.  To reject or resist that authority, even when it’s used abusively, is to put oneself at risk of spiritual and physical harm.  As a result, women are told to submit to their husbands’ authority even if their husbands are cruel, harsh, or abusive.  They are taught to accept however their husbands treat them without complaint.  When husbands are abusive and cruel, women are encouraged to suffer in silence as Jesus did, and so to glorify God.

Sometimes flawed teachings on women and men are in themselves spiritually abusive.  Teaching that men represent Christ to their families leads to the belief that men are mediators for women and children.  This denies women and children direct access to God and contradicts the priesthood of all believers.  It’s also spiritually abusive to teach that women are more easily deceived than men and are prone to usurping male authority.  This view undermines the important role that women have as co-laborers with men, and it creates a climate of suspicion and distrust.  Because believing women are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, just as believing men are, they can be trusted counselors for men even in spiritual and theological matters.

Physical and sexual abuse can also flow out of this system.  Teaching that sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife is an expression of authority and submission can lead to sexual abuse of women.  If a wife has no rights over her own body and no power to deny her husband, then a husband has the authority to compel his wife.  This is a system ripe for abuse, and it’s contrary to what Paul tells married couples about their duties to each other.  Husbands and wives have mutual authority over each other (see 1 Cor. 7:4).

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, p. 237-238.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Dangers of Overemphasizing Women’s Submission (Miller)

 The Bible teaches that in a marriage relationship the wife needs to submit to her own husband (e.g. Eph. 5:24).  However, the Bible says so many other things about wives and women.  If we focus too much on the call to submit and nearly ignore the other biblical teaching on wives and women, it often leads to problems – sometimes major and evil problems.  These problems aren’t just found in cults; sometimes they’re found in Christian circles.  I really appreciate how Rachel Green Miller stated it in her new book, Beyond Authority and Submission: 

The hyper focus on authority and submission can create an environment that is emotionally, spiritually, and physically abusive for women and children – especially when a man’s authority over his wife and children is almost absolute.  In this system, men are the authority that’s been put into place by God over families.  To reject or resist that authority, even when it’s used abusively, is to put oneself at risk of spiritual and physical harm.  As a result, women are told to submit to their husbands’ authority even if their husbands are cruel, harsh, or abusive.  They are taught to accept however their husbands treat them without complaint.  When husbands are abusive and cruel, women are encouraged to suffer in silence as Jesus did, and so to glorify God.

Sometimes flawed teachings on women and men are in themselves spiritually abusive.  Teaching that men represent Christ to their families leads to the belief that men are mediators for women and children.  This denies women and children direct access to God and contradicts the priesthood of all believers.  It’s also spiritually abusive to teach that women are more easily deceived than men and are prone to usurping male authority.  This view undermines the important role that women have as co-laborers with men, and it creates a climate of suspicion and distrust.  Because believing women are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, just as believing men are, they can be trusted counselors for men even in spiritual and theological matters.

Physical and sexual abuse can also flow out of this system.  Teaching that sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife is an expression of authority and submission can lead to sexual abuse of women.  If a wife has no rights over her own body and no power to deny her husband, then a husband has the authority to compel his wife.  This is a system ripe for abuse, and it’s contrary to what Paul tells married couples about their duties to each other.  Husbands and wives have mutual authority over each other (see 1 Cor. 7:4).

Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission, p. 237-238.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Duty Ours, The Power is God’s (Flavel)


When it comes to the mysterious providence of God and trials that come our way in his providence, we need to submit to his will (even when it’s hard to do!). We need the faith to say, “Lord, you know best; thy will be done.” How can we do that? It’s easier said than done for sure! John Flavel (d. 1691) gave a good answer to the hard question: How can we submit to God’s will when his providence includes our suffering and pain?

It must be premised that the question does not suppose the heart or will of a Christian to be at his own command and disposal in this matter. We cannot resign it, and subject it to the will of God whenever we desire so to do. The duty indeed is ours, but the power by which alone we perform it is God’s; we act as we are acted upon by the Spirit.

…We can do this and all things else, however difficult, through Christ that strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). But without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). He does not say, Without me ye can do but little, or without me ye can do nothing but with great difficulty, or without me ye can do nothing perfectly, but ‘without me ye can do nothing’ at all.

And every Christian has a witness in his own breast to attest this truth. For there are cases frequently occurring in the methods of Providence in which, notwithstanding all their prayers and desires, all their reasonings and strivings, they cannot quieten their hearts fully in the disposal and will of God; but on the contrary they find all their endeavours in this matter to be but as the rolling of a returning stone against the hill. Till God say to the heart, Be still, and to the will, Give up, nothing can be done.

Flavel, “The Mystery of Providence”, p. 211-212.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The “Admirable Method” of God’s Providence (Calvin)

Tracts and Treatises of John Calvin (8 vols.) Around 1560 John Calvin wrote “A Brief Confession of Faith” which was probably meant to be a shorter version of his larger confession for French Reformed churches.  Like other Protestant confessions of faith, it gives a good summary of the main teachings of Scripture – summaries which date back to the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds.  Below I’ve posted a paragraph on providence from “A Brief Confession of Faith.”  God’s sovereign providence is a comforting reality for the Christian.  As we face trials and hardships in life, we pray for submission to the good providence of our good God:

I confess that God once created the world to be its perpetual Governor, but in such manner that nothing can be done or happen without his counsel and providence. And though Satan and the reprobate plot the confusion of all things, and even believers themselves pervert right order by their sins, yet I acknowledge that the Lord, as the Sovereign Prince and ruler of all, brings good out of evil; in short, [he] directs all things as by a kind of secret reins, and overrules them by a certain admirable method, which it becomes us to adore with all submissiveness of mind, since we cannot embrace it in thought.

Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1849). Tracts Relating to the Reformation (Vol. 2, pp. 130–131). Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church, OPC
Hammond, WI, 54015